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May 18, 2015

National Center for Choreography to Launch in Akron $5 million investment to attract world's finest dance makers

AKRON, Ohio (May 14, 2015) The University of Akron and DANCECleveland announced today that they will launch a new organization; The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron. This center for choreography only the second in the nation is where the country's finest dance professionals will create new work. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will provide $5 million to support the center, under an agreement being finalized.

"The next generation of great American choreographers needs space and time to develop the craft and to explore the full potential of the creative process," said Alberto Ibargen, president of Knight Foundation. "The new National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron will fill that need, building on the resources of northeast Ohio to create the works that inspire tomorrow's audiences."

The new center, to be located on the university's campus, will select national choreographers and dance companies through a rigorous curated process, providing them full access to the world-class facilities of the university's Center for Dance and Theatre. The advanced technology available in seven dance studios and in E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall will provide dance makers with a full array of resources, from studio space to on-stage rehearsal time to create new work. In addition, University of Akron students will benefit from the presence of professional artists on campus through creative and intellectual exchange.

The center builds on the success of the University of Akron and DANCECleveland's long-standing partnership, which offers one of the strongest dance residency and performance programs in the country. Since 2006, they have provided extended campus and community access to acclaimed professionals and companies, including BalletX, Paul Taylor Dance Company, LINES Ballet, MOMIX and others.

"Dance makers in the United States are sorely underserved and lacking in resources," said Pamela Young, executive director of DANCECleveland. "If dance is to thrive, it's essential to have residency spaces coupled with a full range of support for choreographers. We first envisioned northeast Ohio with its enormous cultural, research and physical space resources, and The University of Akron with its state of the art dance studios, as having the potential to fill this gap. It is thrilling to see this vision take shape and help answer a critical need in the dance ecosystem."

"Our resident artists will be able to tap into a wealth of resources not only at The University of Akron, but also region wide to support the creation of new dance works," Young said.

This effort follows the recommendations of a Knight-funded Blue Ribbon Panel, and a subsequent feasibility study both led by DANCECleveland that addressed an industry-wide challenge: Where and how will the dances of tomorrow be developed? With significant input from the northeast Ohio community, The University of Akron and DANCECleveland have agreed to a memorandum of understanding for the creation of a center that seeks to strengthen the dance ecosystem of the northeast Ohio region and the nation. Knight has agreed to pledge $5 million to support the center once it is created.

UA President Scott L. Scarborough has committed the university to preparing students for the working world through career-focused, experiential learning. The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron complements that vision by providing UA students the opportunity to interact with professional companies and learn first hand about the process of creating dance works.

"The University of Akron is already known around the nation and the world for its excellence in areas including polymer science and engineering," Scarborough said. "With the addition of the choreography center, we will become one of few institutions with a national presence in both the sciences and the arts."

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DANCECleveland, now in its 60th year, is one of eight stand-alone, dance-only presenters in the nation. It has presented performances by more than 200 dance companies, conducted more than 1,000 workshops and master classes and produced seven commissioned works.

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